City Weekly’s founder John Saltas reflects on 20 years of publishing the ever-loving Best of Utah issue.
Where’d you get the idea for the first Best of Utah?
Utah Holiday magazine used to do a very popular Best and Worst issue, so the idea wasn’t new, nor mine. The twist was using a readers’ poll to arrive upon the winners. That idea came—as far as I know—out of the alternative press—papers like this one in other cities. That’s where I copped it and began doing it in the old Private Eye.
Were you nervous people wouldn’t bother to vote?
It was a hit from the very start. We only published every other week back then, so it was a long voting process. We still got quite a few hundred votes that first year. Now, it’s in the thousands for each poll. Or low millions. I forget.
Some criticize the issue saying it’s a love-fest for the paper’s advertisers.
Nothing I say can change anyone’s opinion on that. But, the ad department and the editorial department don’t commingle on this. I don’t care what people think about that, actually. We’ve given out thousands of awards, and that matters most.
What’s your memory of producing the first Best of Utah?
Our office was in a former tavern on historic Main Street in Midvale. A guy named Brett Elzey did the cover, and myself and JR Ruppel (who founded SLUG) did the layout. Thirty-two pages. It took me a day to make a dummy, and JR was cranking out ads. Then, it took us about three more days and nights straight through to finish it. That doesn’t count writing the damned thing. All for $7,000 in revenue—some of which we still haven’t collected.
Some businesses win every year in the same categories. Is the vote fixed?
Like Pie Pizzeria? Or Squatters? Or Red Iguana? Those places are pretty good, agreed? Institutions. Or would people like us to publish The Second Bests of Utah?
What happens to companies that vote for themselves and stuff the
That’s harder to do now that most of the voting is online. We can track IP addresses and if we see a cluster, we count the ballots that appear clean and delete the rest of them. Cheaters never win, right? Trouble is, some of the cheating we’ve caught was by folks who didn’t need to—they were winning anyway. A bit insecure, I guess.
Do you have a toast for Best of Utah winners past, present and future?
Past: You were all great. Present: You are great. Future: Pour me a rye on wry, and we can talk about it later. To all: Even if you didn’t win, you’re still great.